“It’s War!” & “Feeding the Hand that Bites You?”
First, a pair of programming notices, before we dive in to the headline topic.
A) Manufactured Home Communities star and media-magnet Frank Rolfe will be joined by Millennial and third-generation family-owned community partner, Tom Fath, on the Engaging the Media panel at the 2017 Tunica Manufactured Housing Show.
Fath will share his experiences at how they boosted new home sales some 400%, using the same lending programs they had previously. They increased sales as well as margins on new and pre-owned homes.
The media approaches of Rolfe and Fath are quite different!
But each uses media to drive their respective narratives – and business.
If they can do it, the odds are good that you can too.
Come see why the right media strategies are useful, profitable – and even critical – for manufactured home sales growth and profits.
It’s free for industry professionals who are attending the Tunica Show, which is next week.
Compare and contrast what each presenter has done to grow their business.
This panel discussion could be one of the best Take-Aways for your profit-building days at Tunica next week, to learn more, click here.
B) What Brings Democrats, Republicans, non-profits and for-profits together? That compelling topic is teed up at this link. Fore! Or better yet…ForeWard!
“It’s War!” & “Feeding the Hand that Bites You?”
It’s common sense not to feed a hand that bites you.
It’s common sense that you don’t support forces that are aligned against your own interests.
Let’s set the table for this next topic with a series of pragmatic facts.
1) Millions of professionals in all fields would rather not have to spend any time on politics. Those who do spend time, either feel compelled to do so, or they’ve found some benefit in being politically involved.
2) Most businesses are used to setting objectives, and getting things done towards meeting their goals. Political posturing, games and deception are frustrating and turn-offs to many, because that’s not how honest business is done.
3) Because the vast majority of manufactured housing operations choose not to be members of a national association – be it MHI – and under their current structure, most industry pros can’t become a member of MHARR – there are some members of MHI who can wield disproportionate influence within MHI compared to those who aren’t politically engaged.
That reality is especially true for the largest enterprises, which are routinely those who are at the center of elected power, the MHI ‘executive committee.’
4) As was reported in the 400 Word Executive Summary, based upon known data, MHI has a budget about 6-7 times the size of MHARR. As was reported in the apples-to-apples comparision column, MHARR says it represents the interests of independent producers of manufactured homes.
It’s only MHI that claims to represent all segments of manufactured and modular housing industries.
See each organization’s mission in their own words in the screen captures below.
— Each national organization’s logo and mission, in their own words. —
5) How has each done with their respective budgets? That’s a fair question, more on that later. If there is one thing that MHI does that MHARR doesn’t even try to do, it’s the following. Because of their mission and structure, an item that gives MHI a kind of edge, and I don’t mean money (not per se anyway). It’s meetings. Networking is enjoyable. Networking can be profitable. MHI does it, MHARR does so in a more limited sense, primarily at the Tunica Show.
So if there’s something MHI has an edge in – beyond raw money and power – it’s that professional people like to gather and talk shop with their peers.
MHARR’s edge? Facts. More on each of these, another time.
Having set the table, let’s dive into “It’s War!” and “Feeding the Hand that Bites You.”
6) The point (B) at the top ought to be required reading. Because it underscores a bullet that one of our numerous contacts stresses to me in private conversations.
“Tony, Congressmen love our industry!” I ask, ‘why?’
‘Because manufactured housing is a bipartisan issue. The manufactured housing industry does something that can bring Democrats and Republicans together.’
B above – linked again here – makes a similar point. If you’ve not yet read it, please check it out. Then pop back over to finish this post.
Imagine bringing the left and right together, because even in politically-polarized America today – on this issue – that’s doable.
The potentially unifying elements of manufactured housing make cross-party unity on affordable housing a real possibility. It exists.
It’s only the efforts of a few that keep the fruits of unity from taking place. And as Mary McBrady quite rightly said – all on her own, in the quote below – is that we at MHProNews and MHLivingNews have worked for unity, and would love to see Unity-in-Truth-and-Justice become a widespread industry reality.
7) “Tony, MHI’s leadership has declared war against you and your trade publications,” another source told me. I didn’t disagree, but I wanted to understand that MH pro’s perspective. So I asked, and here were bullets from that pro — and others.
– for several years, ‘MHI ignored even those columns you’ve published that supported their efforts on bills they favored, like the Preserving Access to Manufactured Housing Act.’ ‘Why?’ – was the next question?
– MHI publicly “minimized or downplayed your communications“ and media engagement approach for years, but they’ve tried to mimic them. “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” a source said. ‘There are a few that hate you, Tony, but they want to learn from and apply what your team’s done that’s built such a large industry audience,’ was the key takeaway, the gist of that source’s point.
– “MHI has been the same for decades,” said another source, ‘it’s only the faces and corporate names which have changed.’ But that insider says the pattern is this, ‘the biggest operations routinely dominate the MHI agenda.’ To make the point, one caller named a big company, and said, if they pulled out without warning or notice today, MHI would collapse. “That gives them disproportionate power,” the MHI-connected source told MHProNews.
– Are there some new developments at MHI? Yes, says one, and it’s this. ‘The big companies have figured out how to get the smaller companies to pay for their market research,’ by using MHI for their own ends.
That allegation was confirmed at MHI’s own winter meeting in San Antonio.
– “Other than Don Glisson Jr.,” said one, “the MHI chairman in recent years tends to drive an agenda that benefits themselves and their interests.”
– “MHI has been pressuring your sponsors,” says one of a number of such allegations, ‘off the grid’ and indirectly, but now we’re told, they are doing so more openly, and directly.
8) If these parties are correct – and there’s more, but sharing that now could tip off who those sources are – MHI is allegedly an ongoing ‘magic trick.’
Magic tricks are all about slight-of-hand. You already know the gig – distract people over here, and do something else over there, during the distraction.
In such a fashion, MHI allegedly get their members focused on X, while they do Y and Z.
It’s not necessarily about achieving the stated agenda, say informed sources.
For example – passage of Preserving Access. If it had passed Congress last year, and had magically been signed into law by then President Barack Obama – who vowed to veto it had it made it though the Senate – of course those who benefited from the bill would cheer. But for those who get the ‘MHI magic,’ failure to pass the bill – but having a good showing by passing the House – is nearly as good.
Or, some sources suggest, maybe even better?
This is especially true, so the claim goes, if some plumbs fall into their respective large-operations baskets, because MH Industry Independents want and need higher sales or occupancy levels to make it. Low sales volumes, with steady but not spectacular growth, means a few increasingly concentrate power in their hands. MHARR has cited this point, see that linked here.
Or as Weaponized News laid it out, there are thinly-veiled monopolies being forged. Heavy regulations actually favor those larger powers. That’s true in banking, as President Donal J. Trump noted with community lenders recently.
Given the MHI structure and goals – victory or success on a given bill – it’s almost immaterial. If all this be so, it’s pretty smart from their vantage point, right? Win or lose, certain big boys and insiders win. “MHI Magic!”
Fly in the Ointment?
9) That said, there are some flies in the MHI ointment.
MHARR, CFED, ROC USA and others have been pushing – for example – for the Duty to Serve (DTS) by the GSE’s for several years. We’ve periodically raised the DTS question for years on MHProNews too. Under that steady pressure, so the story goes, publicly MHI had little choice but to shift gears.
We have evidence that’s hiding-in-plain-sight, that MHI leadership has the kind of ‘we win, if it happens, and we win if it doesn’t happen’ mentality on DTS, as outlined above. Other evidence to support that surfaced during their recent San Antonio meeting. Several in the room heard that for themselves.
Such evidence will be shared at a later date. But evidence is clearly available today, for those who think carefully and want to find that published item.
10) MHI supposedly wants to spin the narrative that moi/MHProNews is the one that went to war against them. Nothing could be farther from the truth. We’ve long supported MHI where the facts suggested, and opposed them where the facts suggested their viewpoint was flawed from the standpoint of the broader industry’s interests. That’s objective reality.
That proof is also hiding in plain sight. I confess anew that Dick Jennison’s smiles and smooth talk won me over, initially. But it was Jennison who pulled MHI publishing, first from the now closed Journal of Manufactured Housing, and then later, from MHProNews. Why?
Note the date! 2014!
Next, the video that demonstrates that your Masthead analyst was still providing some support for Jennison, in the spring of 2014, and when he fumbled on camera, rather than embarrass the man, anyone can see that I rolled with his talking points.
Note too that in the video, Jennison praised MHProNews’ work.
We’re doing the same type of objective analysis then, as now – only today, if and when needed – we’re training that analysis towards Jennison, Gooch and those who call their shots. Those who publicly praised MHProNews and MHLivingNews previously, and now are sabre rattling and spuriously threating our publication with legal action, they can’t have it both ways.
But the point is, that long before we did our first critical analysis on Jennison, he was – per these sources – already working against the interests of MHProNews and MHLivingNews. They not only metaphorically drew first blood, they drew second, third and fourth blood, before we finally wised up to seeing that our hands were routinely being bitten.
We’ve held our powder, and have focused on items that can be documented, like the misleading Gooch/Jennison MHI Housing Alert, or how Jennison and company failed to promote lending options at a critical time, financing options for home sales in communities or by retailers that were being ignored or under-utilized. Those documents and evidence have been published before and/or are in hand.
Against the backdrop of history and evidence, is it increasingly clear that MHI wants a news monopoly, and if so, why? To weaponize their hyped items, so they can continue to get millions of more dollars that go toward causes that benefit a few?
What could MHARR do – for example – with even half of MHI’s budget, if they had those association dues dollars instead of MHI?
Can you see why MHI has sabre-rattled against MHProNews with threats of unwarranted litigation, directly via attorneys that work for them, or through surrogates that may not yet realize they too are being played? Why would MHI want ONLY their views shared with the industry?
Why would MHI not defend their positions in public, when we routinely give them the opportunity to do so?
The movie Tucker gives a cinematic look at a historic event. How big auto makers used ‘the system’ to crush the independent.
The problem with the strategy that the MHI powers-that-be have is this. There are overseas and domestic efforts that could upset their entire power structure. Keeping new home industry production growing, but at artificially low levels – a point MHARR has alluded to in their Issues and Perspectives – makes large parts of the current industry vulnerable to technologies that could in time supplant manufactured housing.
The only way to avoid that threat logically is to grow at an individual location or via collective business efforts.
10) So that same ad hoc coalition of MHARR and non-profit consumer groups – (I’m not saying by design, IMHO, it’s mostly because each has a similar goal, for similar reasons) – forced DTS to the front with MHI.
11) MHARR forced MHI into reversing its damaging plan on the DOE energy rules. How did modest MHARR do that?
MHARR did it with facts! Facts so compelling, that George Washington University, and the Small Business Administration (SBA) de facto took up points MHARR had been raising – and which verified Mark Weiss and his team’s thinking.
The facts – regardless of source – vs. weaponized, faked MHI news, that’s how this struggle – this war within manufactured housing – is shaping up.
We still very much believe in bringing the industry together, but there will be a struggle – a boil that must be lanced.
Those who see that MHI’s current agenda – no matter how cool it may sound – allegedly stacked to favor a few, may now see why it is important to:
- have MHI’s leaders immediately reform the organization, perhaps along the lines of the KMHI plan,
- or let industry pros begin to forge an alternative national association voice, one other than MHI’s.
While we as trade publishers can support such work, we’re not in the political lobbying industry. So unlike a blogger who’s answer is support him and his nascent group – they’ve had an opportunity to become a real trade association – and have not done so. As Clint Eastwood said, “A man’s got to know his own limitations.”
The time for words is over. It’s time now for action.
There are – as the Masthead sees it – a handful of logical options.
- MHI leaders immediately reform the body, so that large firms don’t dominate it, and the playing field is leveled within MHI, so that small to mid-sized players are fairly represented.
- Industry members could align with the NFIB, which truly is effective in Washington, and takes a pro-business perspective that works for retailers, communities, suppliers and producers. Our sources tell us that several hundred MHIndustry companies have already joined NFIB. Ideally, a niche within that body could be forged – so there’s a wrinkle or two present in this or any approach. But one advantage is that NFIB may already have more MH Industry members than MHI has in terms of total company members.
- MHEC or MHARR could decide to expand their membership and mission, to supplant MHI’s role. There’s challenges that each would face, but this must be mentioned as a potential option.
- A new, independent post-production association is forged, one that would be structured in a way that truly represents smaller-to-mid-sized operations – be they retailers, lenders, communities, suppliers, vendors, installers, transporters or other service providers. Let them work with MHARR, for the good of the bulk of the industry.
One or more of the above needs to take place. It won’t happen without a struggle. It’s war.
What will victory look like in this war?
- That the truth will prevail,
- that more manufactured home professionals will be able to enjoy the fruits of their labors — with less political stress,
- because they will be more focused on their businesses, serving ever-more consumers well and thus enjoying more profits.
Idealistic? Hardly. It’s practical. It’s pragmatic.
Let the big-boys have and keep their club. Let the rest of the industry forge a coalition that is geared for growth.
Everyone in MHVille has a choice. They can feed the hand that bites their own interests, or they can move towards a positive change by well thought out, organized action.
We have several reports in the pipeline, the first will likely come out in April. These will continue to spotlight specific pits and blind-alleys MHI’s direction have allegedly led the industry. They will identify missed opportunities, threats and costs.
Expect MHI leaders to do something in response, more back door pressure, a more direct counter, some combination – whatever.
Or perhaps, just perhaps, the leadership may realize that it truly is in their best interests – and that of the industry at large – to work together for a common good.
What will happen?
Time will tell.
One thing is for sure. Whenever Goliath threatens or chases little ole David, expect the lad to grab the slingshot of truth, to take aim, and fire a head-shot. ##
(Image credits are as shown above, and where a third party’s image is used, it is shared under fair use guidelines.)
By L. A. “Tony” Kovach, managing member, LifeStyle Factory Homes, LLC – dba MHProNews.com, MHLivingNews.com.
Notice: as with all editorials on any publication, the views presented are those of the writer – or in this case, and/or the publication’s parent – and should not be construed as representing those of any third party or sponsor.